🎥 Suffering on Monte Sante Marie: why this gravel gem will also be just the strip in Strade Bianche on Saturday Cycling

🎥 Suffering on Monte Sante Marie: why this gravel gem will also be just the strip in Strade Bianche on Saturday

🎥 Suffering on Monte Sante Marie: why this gravel gem will also be just the strip in Strade Bianche on Saturday

When the helicopter takes off and we see the riders steaming on a ribbon over the hill, we know that Strade Bianche has really begun. The finale almost always starts there in recent years because the thick 11-kilometer Monte Sante Marie-sector is simply leaden. Why? What is so special about it? And what is it like heading into Saturday? IDLProcycling did some research three days before the start!

Strade Bianche, is there any other race that in a short time became such a phenomenon on the calendar? The vistas in the Tuscan hills, the white gravel roads winding through them, the leaden finish in Siena, with the finish line in Piazza del Campo. With dust (or mud) on their faces, the riders usually roll in, one by one, completely in tatters. We often see the first grimaces as Monte Sante Marie begins.

Pidcock the fastest, but named after many-winner Cancellara 

It is the strip that in 2017 was named after Fabian Cancellara, who in 2016 won Strade Bianche for the third and last time in his career. Surely, however, it is mainly the last years that will be remembered regarding this obstacle. An elite group with eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel who broke away and stayed away in 2021, the start of a long solo by Tadej Pogacar towards victory in 2022 and last year Tom Pidcock who took advantage of Monte Sante Marie to ride away from the rest uphill and especially downhill.

Officially, the strip is 11.48 kilometers long, good for 553 altimeters. The Strava-KOM is in the name of 2023 Pidcock, who thundered over it in 20 minutes and 12 seconds. 34.1 kilometers per hour on average! That did take us a little longer on Wednesday. But more importantly, what makes the Monte Sante Marie strip so difficult? Saturday it's over after 142 kilometers of racing, with 73 kilometers to go. Last year there was 42 kilometers to go. Still, we don't think that will make much difference. A solo effort á la Pogacar might be a bit far, but the Sante Marie will undoubtedly make up for it.

Monte Sante Marie: what makes this Strade Bianche stretch so tough?

The difficulty lies mainly in the accumulation of steep climbs, interspersed with technical descents and really few places to really catch your breath. Simple form here ensures that the wheat is separated from the chaff. Because from Cancellara's stone it is already dirty uphill, followed by an even steeper pustule of several hundred meters. In the first few kilometers there are already several double-digit percentages.

It is at this point that we really enter the open plain. Often on TV it looks like it's not too difficult here, but with the wind blowing freely and the steep climbs at the beginning, this is the place to gear up and turn a hole into a gap. Coming back is very difficult in the short descent towards the bridge, as the legs fill up on the next steep hump, which seems to last forever. Only when you pass the "Monte Sante Marie" sign and see the chapel on the right do you know that the hardest part is over.

Strade Bianche weather forecast may make stretch even more difficult

From here it's onward, up and down the outside blades, through the forest and with some tricky descents that guys like Pidcock know how to deal with in the gravel turns. Towards the end of the stretch it's one more time on the pedals, before a bizarre view of Tuscany and the countdown to the asphalt. There the riders often exhale and their heads are counted: who is with them? And who is not?

Monte Sante Marie could get extra tricky on Saturday due to the rain that has fallen in Tuscany and will continue to fall in the days before Saturday. So don't be deceived on Saturday by the predicted sunshine: the rain will have already done its work. No dust clouds, it is expected, but a heavier strip that may be so even more demanding. Check below the video taken Wednesday of Monte Sante Marie. Also in the sunshine, but also then with two days of rainfall behind it. Andiamo!

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